If there’s one question that almost all online learning students have, it has to do with transferring college credits. When you go to school online, it can be a bit frightening to think that if you do want to switch schools in the future, transferring your college credits could be tricky, if not impossible.

So, how do you know if your credits will transfer? Well, it’s hard to give a definitive answer because every school has a different policy. However, a few hard and fast rules exist.

First of all, it’s vital that you go to an accredited university. We can’t stress how important this is! Most universities will not accept credits from another school that isn’t accredited, so your first step before enrolling is to check out your school completely. And, don’t just take their word for it as there are just as many “phony” accrediting agencies out there.

If a school claims to be accredited, then look up the agency they’re accredited by. Make sure it’s a real agency and not just a fancy name. A good source to use is the U.S. Department of Education; they don’t accredit schools themselves, but they do list all the “real” accrediting agencies.

You can also do research through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA has a searchable database of over 7,000 legitimate online learning institutions. If your school isn’t on here, that’s a major red flag.

Another way to make sure that you’ll be able to transfer your college credits is to look at what you want to do. If you’re just starting out with your education, then transferring credits up to your associate’s degree will be fairly easy. If, however, you’re doing upper-level coursework for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, then keep in mind that many universities will not accept higher-level classes from other universities.

To combat this, spend plenty of time researching your schools. If you go to one university for a semester or two and then find one that seems a better fit, then you stand a good chance of losing those classes in the transfer shuffle. So, if you’re doing upper level coursework try to find the best fit so you don’t have to transfer.

It’s also helpful to talk to one of the advisors at the school you’re interested in attending. Tell them what classes you’re interested in taking. Oftentimes, they can tell you if those courses will transfer. It’s also important to know that many schools will give you college credit for professional development courses. For instance, if you’ve attended corporate training classes or seminars, these skills can sometimes translate into a class that you don’t have to take for your degree. Be mindful, however, “Life Skills” are harder to transfer to different institutions. So try to apply them to the final school you’ll be attending to get your degree.

So, what’s the skinny on transferring college credits? Well, it doesn’t have to be as frustrating as most people make it out to be. By doing plenty of research and knowing what you want to do from the beginning you can save yourself a lot of headache later on.